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Oct 27, 2022
Alex Lewis
How a windfall tax could sever marketing’s unhealthy addiction to fossil fuels
Amid the UK’s energy crisis, windfall taxes for polluters have been in the zeitgeist. But what of their marketing partners? Alex Lewis, co-founder of agency Revolt, argues that it could be time for our own windfall tax.
How do we change?
The first step is to follow France’s lead with a ban on fossil fuel-related advertising. This will happen naturally, but slowly, as the conscience kicks in with more and more media outlets self-imposing the ban. Let’s not procrastinate any longer, and announce that we’ve done the right thing before Cop27.

Agencies will start to see the fallout reach their own door. At Cannes this year Greenpeace crashed the opening ceremony to call out the advertising industry “for working with the fossil fuel industry and being complicit in spreading disinformation around the climate catastrophe and promoting their polluting products.”

Crucially, those with fossil fuel clients will increasingly struggle to retain and attract talent. A recent UK survey of 18-30-year-old creatives found 63% were uncomfortable working with high-carbon clients; 40% said they would consider refusing work for high-carbon clients. Without an intervention, agencies working on fossil fuel-related advertising will start to see their reputation damaged both internally and externally.
The case for a windfall tax
How about media that’s less easy to pin down, such as promotions, PR and content-led approaches? Here, we need a windfall tax on all revenue the marketing industry takes from oil and gas.

The fossil fuel industry is a huge source of revenue for public relations firms. Research by Brown sociologist Robert Brulle, quoted in BuzzFeed, found that five big oil companies have “spent nearly $3.6bn in advertising purposes for corporation promotion” between 1986 and 2015.

Even a modest windfall tax of 25%, like the one recently imposed in the UK on the oil and gas companies themselves, would be a significant levy.
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